7A: Winter Haven Captures Wire-to-Wire Title
Winter Haven has been the best girls team in Polk County for years. Now the Blue Devils can say they are the best team in the state again.
Winter Haven led from wire-to-wire to capture a 44-28 victory over the Bradenton Lakewood Ranch Mustangs and claim the Class 7A state championship. It is the third state title for Winter Haven, also having won titles in 2005 and 2007.
Diamond Battles led Winter Haven with 12 points. Chrisana Scott had nine points for the Blue Devils (26-3).
It is the first title as a head coach for Johnnie Lawson, an assistant on those two previous Winter Haven title teams. After so many misses, the monkey is off of Lawson’s back.
“Now I can finally sit at the adult table,” Lawson said. “I can sit and talk to a Billy Washington and a coach (Deron) Collins and a coach Alvin Jones, coach (Alvin) Pearsall (and) coach (Terrence) McGriff. These kids put in so much hard work.
“We’ve been at it for so long,” Lawson said. “To be the first and second and the third team in Polk County to win a championship is big. My mentor LeDawn Gibson taught me so much. It’s the standard we set at Winter Haven. No we haven’t won the state championships that Ribault and Dillard have won but the standard of excellence is there.”
Kailyn Scully scored 12 points, while LaDazhia Williams added 11 for the Mustangs (25-7).
Defense was a big key as Lakewood Ranch made just 11 field goals and was 6 of 18 from the free-throw line. Winter Haven made just 12 shots but made 20 of 26 shots from the free-throw line.